The Rise in Conscious Consumerism

If your salon isn’t stocking and using sustainably sourced, created and packaged products, you risk losing the most influential customers – Generation Z, says Kerrie Simon-Lawrence.

It used to be that sustainable beauty was the stuff of hippies, best left to the infamous ‘90s refill counter at The Body Shop. Back in the day we liked our bottles plastic, and our boxes wrapped in cellophane – it felt special somehow.

Fast-forward 20-odd years and  – thankfully – we’ve been schooled on sustainability, and that if we want a planet to pass on to our grandkids, we’d best be a bit kinder to her.

According to a recent Australian survey by delivery service Couriers Please – who claim that a vast majority of their deliveries are beauty products –  nine in 10 Australian consumers are more likely to purchase ethical and sustainable products. In fact, most respondents also said they would be willing to pay up to 10% more for sustainable products.

“The survey data reveals that a large majority of consumers – not a minority like some may have thought – want brands and retailers to be more transparent about the origins and sustainability of products,” says Paul Roper, chief commercial officer at Couriers Please. “Consumers want to be more conscious of what, and who, they are purchasing from. I think it could be a big wake-up call for retailers to realise that there is a rise in conscious consumerism.”

The survey also revealed that two in five Australian consumers would be willing to pay more for ethical and sustainable products, while younger consumers appear to be more sustainably-minded – with 46 per cent of shoppers under-30s, compared to 34 per cent of over-50s.

A higher proportion of women are also willing to spend more on sustainably produced products at 46 per cent, compared with 36 per cent of male consumers.

It’s a movement that salon owners and suppliers have seen and are responding to accordingly. Skincare brand Saint Romeo claims to have Mother Earth in mind when producing their cult products, with all of their packaging being 100 percent recyclable. “We use amber glass bottles for four out of five products, and the only plastic bottle we use is absolutely recyclable,” says a business representative.

“We care about the entire planet, and are extremely passionate about our oceans.  Led by research and the revelations around the absolute devastation that waste has on our oceans, we made a promise to minimise our impact. Plastic, labelling, waste – the thought process has been continuously leaning into the heart of the matter. We knew that responsible and conscious skincare that was housed in considerate packaging had the greatest potential to do our bit to protect our oceans. After all, our children and future generations need it just as much as we do. And so for this reason, we support the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) with a $1 donation from each sale.”

With conversations about climate change and the state of the planet only getting louder, it’s a non-negotiable for Carol Ahmed, director at Bondi’s ONDA Beauty. “Consumers have more access to information now and are far more educated than before. We have seen clients choose green/sustainable treatments as a reflection of their lifestyle and beliefs, choosing treatments and products that are consciously formulated, efficacious, sustainable, innovative and most importantly, safe. We definitely see a new generation insisting that brands are purpose-driven and have considered the human, social and environmental impact in all stages of their manufacturing process. At ONDA Beauty, it’s important to us that the brands we partner with share these values too. These values resonate with our customers and once we help them find the right routine to suit their needs, they see results and it becomes a permanent lifestyle change and an important part of their daily ritual.”

According to a recent debate at the World Economic Forum, going green is not only good for the planet, but to ignore the plea of your clients could be bad business. “Society increasingly asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges,” said Larry Fink, chief executive of the world’s largest asset manager Black Rock, “Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

So what to do? According to Roy, the time to act is now. “It is time that businesses and organisations think about their environmental footprint and understand the influence they have on consumers,” Roper said. “It is up to [salon owners] – from the big players to the micros – to think more about sustainability and our futures and take the lead to help consumers make better choices.”

This article originally appeared in the May-June 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.

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